Does the Garman Theatre saga include another facade other than the brick and mortar one?
State College developer Ara Kervandjian now is asking the Bellefonte Historical Architecture Review Board for a demolition order to tear down the historic building left roofless and damaged by a fire a year ago.
Before, while making his bid for the property along with the ruined Hotel Do De next door to create workforce housing, Kervandjian said he would try to save the Garman’s facade if it was economically and structurally feasible.
At the time, he spoke to the Bellefonte Historical Architecture Review Board — which oversees the preservation of the town’s Victorian streetscape — in a special presentation. HARB reportedly liked his vision.
“I think that’s a wonderful idea now that you’re going to save the facade,” board member Tamara Schuster said at the presentation. “I think that helps the community a lot.”
The Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority ended up approving the sale of the properties to Kervandjian over a bid from the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association, which wants to restore the theater as a community arts venue.
All of a sudden, the developer claims the price tag of $500,000 to save the facade is too high.
That revelation raises questions.
Did Kervandjian suggest his plan in good faith? Did he have a ballpark estimate, a range perhaps, of the expenses when he was wooing the community?
Maybe he didn’t have an exact figure or structural assessment, but he had to have known preserving the facade wasn’t going to be cheap.
Did he just say the right thing at the right moment — mere lip service to win support? Did he shoot from the hip without all the facts? At what cost would the project have been feasible?
HARB and the Borough Council should press Kervandjian for answers before they let him off the hook and allow a part of Bellefonte’s historic and charming downtown to disappear.
A second estimate on the facade project wouldn’t hurt either.
Kervandjian said he would do his best to save the facade. Apparently, his best for the borough is too expensive.
Without a more complete explanation from Karvandjian, HARB and the council should think long and hard about approving a demolition order.
Their job is to preserve Bellefonte’s heritage and character, not a developer’s profit margin.